Education, with a collective purpose

The Shanghai Co-operation Organisation (SCO) will establish a new university network in mid-2009. Last autumn, education ministers agreed to create the SCO University at a meeting in Astana, with the goal to unite leading national universities' intellectual potential.

According to Andrei Fursenko, Russian Minister for Science and Education, the SCO University will represent a network of existing universities in SCO member and observer states (Mongolia, Pakistan, India and Iran). The new network will gear its education programmes to training highly-skilled specialists who can meet the needs of cultural, academic and economic co-operation between SCO countries. This includes the energy sector, environment, engineering, metallurgy, materials technology, construction, transport, fuel, history, linguistics and information technology. This list is still incomplete and will be subject to regular updates. SCO University official languages will be the national language of the host country and/or Russian and Chinese. The SCO University model will be based on co-operation between parent universities and is to offer preparatory language courses, Bachelor's programmes, Master's programmes, postgraduate studies, doctorates, advanced training programmes, professional retraining, distance learning and extramural training.

Students enrolled in the University will be able to study, from the beginning of any semester, in a parent foreign university offering the same kind of programme. Furthermore, the education period and number of foreign partner universities are not limited. Enrollment will depend on mutually agreed quotas set in proportion to the contribution made by an SCO member state to the university budget.

The SCO University will also admit those who wish to pay for their own studies. Upon graduation, students will obtain a diploma from the university in which they spent 60 pc of their time, as well as the SCO University certificate, which will later be replaced by the SCO University diploma.

"Today, we need a new type of technological and economic co-operation between these countries. The SCO University offers such an opportunity. It can become an excellent place for the SCO states to share their experience," said Fursenko.

The first forum of rectors of leading SCO member countries' universities will be held in Moscow later this year.

Co-operative task will include signing of an inter-governmental agreement on the mutual recognition of education certificates - one of the main conditions for a greater mobility of academic cadres and provision of personnel for joint SCO projects in the economic and humanitarian fields.

It is also important to develop a database of educational systems in SCO member-countries.

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